The Collection acquires published works on fine art, architecture and design history in general. The scope of the Art and Architecture Collection is international, covering the fine and decorative arts from the prehistoric to contemporary periods. The Collection serves the diverse interests of an academic, scholarly, professional, trade and independent researchers.
A wide variety of printed art information material is collected: monographs, exhibition catalogs, auction catalogs, periodicals, monographic series, series and annuals, oeuvre and catalogs raisonnés in English and Western European languages only. Textbooks and dissertations are not collected, unless a specific title has become a significant resource for information on a particular topic. The collection maintains an Artists File on microfiche, composed of over 90,000 files on individual artists working in all types of media. The collection also maintains a Pamphlet File with historical information gathered from New York City and area art institutions, including galleries, art schools, professional arts organizations, and landmark sites.
The Art and Architecture Collection’s retrospective holdings are remarkably rich for scholarship as a result of acquisitions from the original Astor and Lenox collections, and various early bequests. The Collection is particularly strong in the decorative arts; included among its early holdings is an antiquarian-based collection of portfolio and plate-books; early decorative arts periodicals; late 19th century and early 20th century titles; and many primary source materials in textile history. These bequests were also rich in Americana. A special fund has allowed the Collection to build an outstanding bibliography on jewelry, gold and silvermaking.
A number of subjects often associated with art and architecture are housed in the General Research Division: archaeology, including pre-Columbian, Mesoamerican and Native American arts; arms and armor; comic books and cartoons; landscape gardening; military costume; museology; numismatics; and urban planning.
The Science Industry and Business Library houses the following topics: advertising art (except posters); architectural construction, economics, planning, technique, and zoning; technical aspects of computer art; business aspects of fashion design; and technical workings of watches and clocks. For materials on art technique, crafts as hobby, and how-to-do-it projects, the Library’s Circulating Art Collection offers an extensive range of holdings. African and African American art, including arts from the black Caribbean, are collected by the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.
A few other art related subjects not covered by Art and Architecture are: art education; artists books; book illustrators; caricature; puppets and toys; and theater and stage design, sets, and costume design. These materials can be found in the Library for the Performing Arts. Please consult the Library's online catalog. Works written in non-Roman alphabet languages, (e.g. Chinese, Japanese, Korean, the South Asian languages) can be found in the General Research Division and in the Jewish Division for Hebrew and Ladino.